New York is the most populous city in the United States, and the center of the New York metropolitan area, which is one of the most populous urban areas in the world. A leading global city, New York exerts a powerful influence over worldwide commerce, finance, culture, fashion and entertainment. As host of the United Nations headquarters, it is also an important center for international affairs. The city is often referred to as New York City to differentiate it from the state of New York, of which it is a part.
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Located on a large natural harbor on the Atlantic coast of the Northeastern United States, the city consists of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. The city's 2008 estimated population exceeds 8.3 million people, and with a land area of 305 square miles (790 km2), New York City is the most densely populated major city in the United States. The New York metropolitan area's population is also the nation's largest, estimated at 18.8 million people over 6,720 square miles (17,400 km2). Furthermore, the Combined Statistical Area containing the Greater New York metropolitan area contained 22.155 million people as of 2008 Census estimates, also the largest in the United States. New York was founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1624. The settlement was called New Amsterdam until 1664 when the colony came under English control. New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790. It has been the country's largest city since 1790.
Many districts and landmarks in the city have become well-known to outsiders. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, has been a dominant global financial center since World War II and is home to the New York Stock Exchange. The city has been home to several of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Empire State Building and the twin towers of the former World Trade Center.
The City is the birthplace of many cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance in literature and visual art; abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School) in painting; hip hop, punk, salsa, disco and Tin Pan Alley in music; and is the home of Broadway theater.
New York is notable among American cities for its high use of mass transit, most of which runs 24 hours per day, and for the overall density and diversity of its population. In 2005, nearly 170 languages were spoken in the city and 36% of its population was born outside the United States. Sometimes referred to as "The City that Never Sleeps", other nicknames include The Capital of the world, Gotham, and the Big Apple.